Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) targets universal access to energy, an increased share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, and doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvement. While the Asia-Pacific region has made considerable progress in meeting SDG 7 targets, much more work needs to be done if the region is to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
Deployment of renewable energy and complementary technologies like energy efficiency, battery storage and, in particular, grids must increase significantly if the SDG 7 targets are to be met. However, there are many positive signs that suggest the transition to clean energy is accelerating. Renewable energy is more cost-competitive than ever, especially compared with the relatively high cost of oil, natural gas and coal, and these technologies are increasingly being recognized as contributors to energy security.
The new UNESCAP Regional Trends Report 2022 is focused on strategy that can enable a more rapid, more secure and more affordable transition to clean energy, i.e., power system connectivity.
Energy connectivity supports the integration of variable renewables, and enables access to a more diverse and lower cost set of resources. Accelerating progress on power system connectivity can, in turn, accelerate the energy transition.
This report provides a useful set of case studies and recommendations for enhancing policies in support of power system connectivity and the energy transition.
Regarding the Central Asia, the report highlights the existence of initiatives to increase cross-border power system connectivity, as well as gaps and opportunities for power exchange there.
This subregion of North and Central Asia covers nine members, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
In spite of being already interconnected, there is still available interconnection capacity to exchange power among those countries.
Many Central Asian countries have significant fossil fuel reserves, as well as hydropower resources. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are endowed with hydrocarbon resources.
Tajikistan is the largest hydroelectricity producer, and its potential capacity is three times higher than the current electricity consumption of all of Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan’s potential generation capacity is estimated at 18.5 GW. However, only 10 per cent of its resources are currently being exploited.
“Effective and sustainable development and use of these resources could be a significant contributor to balance the region’s electricity systems, enabling the integration of renewable energy resources throughout the subregion”, the report says.
The region’s geostrategic location between Asia and Europe means it can become a hub for energy trade between these two blocs. This is already the case with the shared border between the South Asian nations of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where there are more chances for power trade emerging due to fast growing electrical demand.
For example, when completed the 1,222 km CASA-1000 project will enable the transfer south of 1,300 MW of electricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Another project, TAP (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan) is aimed at constructing a 500 kV transmission line to export electricity from Turkmenistan to western and southern Afghanistan and on to Pakistan. The project will enable power trade and exchange among the three countries.
TAP will be developed in two stages. The first phase – completed in 2021 – linked Turkmenistan to Afghanistan. The second phase – originally projected to be completed by 2022 – will enable the transfer of up to 4,000 MW of power from Turkmenistan to Pakistan.
The subregion has the historical legacy of power system connectivity like the Unified Energy
System in Central Asia. The system was disrupted after the Soviet Union collapse. Re-establishing regional connectivity is being discussed on an ongoing basis in the region, and discussions on regional connectivity are being supported by international and regional institutions. After a nine-year break, Tajikistan resumed electricity supplies to Uzbekistan in 2018. This event became an important step on the way to restoring the regional energy system
On the other hand, legacy infrastructure may not be fit for purpose of supporting a transition to the power systems of the future. Most of the existing transmission and distribution lines, built in Soviet era, require modernization and replacements.
It is encouraging to note that the two summits of Central Asian countries held in Kazakhstan (2018) and Uzbekistan (2019) urged for enhanced cooperation in the energy sector by expanding opportunities for energy trade and promoting the development of modern energy infrastructure.
Moreover, several recent reports showed the benefits of cross-border electricity trading in Central Asia.
According to the World Bank, the region can reduce operating expenses by as much as US$ 6.4 billion in the next 10 years. Other benefits of power trade include increased energy security and reliability, fuel cost savings due to a shift from gas to hydro, greater renewable energy penetration (up to 30,000 MW of solar by 2030).
The Regional Trends Report 2022 – Toward Sustainable Energy Connectivity in Asia and the Pacific: Status, Trends, and Opportunities is available here: https://www.unescap.org/kp/2022/regional-trends-report-2022-toward-sustainable-energy-connecivity-asia-and-pacific-status#
///nCa, 24 September 2022